I have been in Berlin on my study abroad for two weeks. This has been one of the best experiences of my life! The city is incredible - there are so many different people and so much to see and do. I am only in class two days a week, leaving the other five to study and explore the city. This was definitely the right choice for me. There are some people in class everyday and they are so overwhelmed. And they haven't gotten a chance to see much of the city.
The class I'm taking is the history of the Third Reich - the events that brought the Nazi party into power, the policies they put into place, and finally the crumbling of the regime. We are at midterms right now so we have just covered the early years after Hitler came into power. The class is incredibly interesting and each afternoon we go on an excursion to a museum or historical site related to the discussion from the morning. It is so helpful to be able to actually see history unfold in front of us on these excursions. It helps emphasize the reality of what was happening much more then just reading it from a book.
Even when I'm not in class, I can't walk five minutes down a street without running into a monument or museum related to the world wars or the holocaust. It's amazing to see this history constantly. One of my favorite monuments is one in the square outside of the opera house. There was a huge boom burning that took place in this square, destroying books the Nazis thought were inappropriate. To commemorate the site, a hole was dug out underneath the plaza. Empty bookshelves were installed into a completely white room. A piece of plexiglass was placed over the hole so when you are walking through the plaza you can walk right over this room or look down and see it below you. There are lots of similar creative concepts for monuments all across the city. Sometimes you will see a block of concrete or a piece of art and not even realize it is a monument until someone tells you what it is there for.
Yesterday our class went to a concentration camp just outside of Berlin. It was hard to grasp the atrocities that took place on that site. A trench had been dug out and prisoners of the camp were put into the trench and shot, then their bodies were taken to the crematorium in the camp and destroyed. Horrible things happened at the camp and the town adjacent to the camp ignored what was happening. It's hard to imagine living in such a place.
We have two more weeks of classes. I'm looking forward to our class discussions and the excursions that are coming up. It's a lot to learn in such a short time!!